Report: Dems scrap plans to include $15 minimum wage in new COVID-19 relief bill

In a major defeat for those on the left, reports allege that Senate Democrats are giving up on plans to stick a provision raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour into the latest coronavirus relief bill.

According to sources who spoke with the Wall Street Journal, Senate Democrats aren’t planning to include the President Joe Biden-backed proposal to raise the minimum wage in their version of the COVID-19 relief package, though it was included in the House-passed version of the bill.

The development comes after the provision was previously shot down by the Senate parliamentarian, who said current rules don’t allow for such a change to be made to federal law under the special budget reconciliation process that Democrats are using to push the relief bill through.

Dems were said to be teeing up other plans to pass the minimum wage hike, but those have reportedly been abandoned because of the “tight timeline” they’re facing “and the complexities of raising wages through the tax code,” the Journal said.

A look inside

Under the process known as budget reconciliation, Democrats would need to convince just 51 senators to back their coronavirus relief package, instead of the 60-vote majority that is typically required. Notably, only 50 seats in the upper chamber are held by Dems; Republicans hold the rest, and they’ve long held out against minimum wage hikes.

While Vice President Kamala Harris would be there to break the tie, it doesn’t look like Dems will get that far, as the Senate parliamentarian said last week that the minimum wage increase “didn’t meet the guidelines for reconciliation,” according to a separate report from the Journal.

In the wake of the parliamentarian’s ruling, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other Democrats were said to be exploring alternative ways to get the measure passed, including via tax penalties.

But two people told the Wall Street Journal that Democrats are now trashing their plans “to ensure quick passage of the overall bill.”

A look ahead

As it stands, the package includes “$1,400 direct payments to millions of qualifying Americans, funds for vaccine distribution, money for state and local governments, an expanded child tax credit, rental assistance, food aid and more help for small businesses,” according to NPR.

Those provisions as well as the minimum wage hike were all passed by House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), in the early hours of Saturday morning in a largely party-line vote.

Only two Democrats voted against the measure.

The package is expected to pass both chambers of Congress by mid-March.

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